Kilmer Statement on Passage of Bill to Fund the Government
Washington, D.C. – Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) released the following statement after the House voted to approve the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act. The legislation would fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year. Yesterday, the House also approved the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015. Both bills now head to the Senate for consideration.
“Today, Republicans and Democrats came together to keep our economy on track and avoid a shutdown that would be damaging to the region I represent,” said Kilmer. “Like every compromise, this isn’t perfect, but it’s good to see Congress hammer out a compromise agreement that sets political grandstanding aside and prevents our economy from going off a cliff. This bill does some good for folks in our region too.”
“Now we can make investments in education and research to keep us a step ahead of our competitors. It helps us protect the iconic waters of the Puget Sound and the natural landscapes that make our state famous. With its passage, we can better show the men and women who serve their country that we have their back. This bill also makes progress on our trust and treaty obligations to tribal governments.
“We’ve still got some work to do. I’m hopeful in the New Year we can use this as groundwork for a long-term deal that protects our priorities, gets rid of the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration once and for all, and puts us on a path to building shared prosperity for all Americans.”
“While we failed to make progress on comprehensive tax reform the legislation we passed yesterday provides opportunity to those in need,” Kilmer continued on the PATH Act. “It ensures that Americans are rewarded for their hard work by providing tax relief for families, those paying for college, and small businesses. Most importantly, it puts money back in the wallets of folks I represent by making the sales tax deduction permanent and ending an inequity that has hurt Washington state for too long.”
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Kilmer fought to ensure that the final funding bill includes priorities for Washington. The legislation:
Veterans Choice Program: Expands the program to include travel time and total distance veterans have to travel to VA medical facilities. This will make it easier for veterans with long travel times to VA clinics to get care at facilities closer to home. The Veterans Choice Program was created to allow veterans to visit non-VA facilities if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or face scheduling delays. Kilmer has consistently fought to include travel time to expand the program.
Tribal Veterans: Commits the VA to recognizing tribal organizations who can represent veterans requesting benefits. Currently, the VA has not identified tribal governments as veterans’ service organizations. This makes it harder for the tribes and their employees to help Native American veterans receiving missing benefits or proper compensation. Kilmer had previously received a commitment that they would make a push to recognize these organizations.
Native American Veteran Housing Loan Program: Invests $1.134 billion in the Native American Veteran Housing Loan Program so eligible tribal veterans have increased access to direct home loans.
Mental Health: Full funding for VA mental health programs to ensure that veterans dealing with behavioral health issues have access to care.
The Act supports a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers while fully funding the Ohio-class submarine replacement program. It also includes investments for construction at key local military installations like Naval Base Kitsap. These investments will help the military continue its national security mission and ensure military construction projects are in compliance with environmental and safety standards.
Puget Sound: Invests $28 million in the Puget Sound Geographic Program which implements projects dedicated to the restoration of the Puget Sound.
Land and Water Conservation Fund: Reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years. Since the fund was started it has invested nearly $600 million in more than 600 projects in parks, trails, and other outdoor spaces across Washington state.
Salmon Recovery: Puts $65 million into the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. The fund was created in 2000 to halt the decline of Pacific salmon and steelhead, supporting efforts to boost populations in Western states like Washington.
Coastal Waters: Commits $26.7 million to the National Estuary Program that works to improve waters and habitats of estuaries in states like Washington. Estuaries are enclosed coastal bodies of water where freshwater mixes with saltwater.
Coastal Resiliency: Invests $100 million in the National Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund, which supports state, local, and tribal governments looking to invest in prevention and protection ahead of natural disasters that can strike coastal communities.
Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Fund: Dedicates $40 million to encourage the collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes. Kilmer hosted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Aberdeen earlier this year to highlight how collaborative public-private partnerships create initiatives and investments that have boosted Washington state’s forest product industry.
This past May, Kilmer joined regional leaders from the National Forest Service, local governments, the local timber industry, and environmental advocacy groups to officially launch the Olympic Peninsula Forest Collaborative. The Collaborative is focused on landscape restoration, watershed protection, and habitat conservation that will create economic opportunities on the Olympic Peninsula.
Hatchery Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs): Includes $4 million to expedite approval of HGMPs, which ensure that salmon and steelhead hatchery programs in states like Washington are rooted in sound science and in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
Broadband: Contains $4.5 million in direct spending and $10.3 million in grants to help communities in more rural areas expand their access to broadband internet connections.
Water Treatment: Invests $522.4 million in the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program which provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems and storm water drainage to homes and businesses in rural areas.
Behavioral Health: Secures $15 million for Tribal Behavioral Health Grants to help prevent and reduce suicidal behavior and substance abuse while promoting mental health among Native American youth.
Tribal Fire Recovery: $2 million to assist Washington and Oregon tribes with wildfire recovery efforts. Wildfires have burned more than one million acres this past summer in Washington state.